Six Menswear Brands To Watch This Autumn
What’s new from the most desirable menswear brands in the world?
Acne Studios. Fear of God. AMIRI. SAINT LAURENT. AMI. Off-White. You know the names, but do you know what they stand for? Every brand has its values, but with fashion being fashion, an industry forever in flux whose entire modus operandi is to reinvent itself twice a year, those values are inherently subject to change. Add to this the fact that businesses evolve and change over time. Many of the most recognisable names in luxury started out selling logo tees and denim, and the industry’s revolving door of creative directors shows that even its oldest institutions aren’t too big for a wholesale rebrand.
What it comes down to is this: if you want to stay on top of the menswear game, you need to know its players. And this industry is a high-maintenance mistress; you can’t leave it alone for a couple of seasons and expect it to be the same, or even recognisable, when you return. Hence this up-to-date primer on a few of MR PORTER’s favourite designers – those six names we mentioned earlier – and what you can expect from them as we head into autumn. Whether you’re meeting them for the first time or just catching up on their latest collections, this is the place to start your new-season shopping list.
Acne Studios started life in 1997 as a spin-off clothing line of the Stockholm-based design collective ACNE, or “Ambition to Create Novel Expressions”. Back then, it was was all about denim. Its first move was to create 100 pairs of jeans and hand them out to friends and family in the Stockholm creative scene, sparking the buzz that fuelled the brand’s early growth. The blue stuff is still very much part of the brand under its “Blå Konst” (or “Blue Art”) diffusion line – but Acne Studios has outgrown its skinnies in recent years in favour of a more flamboyant take on menswear. If you thought that creative director and co-founder Mr Jonny Johansson was still a standard-bearer for Scandi minimalism, this overdyed orange cowhide coat, one of the highlights of the brand’s AW19 show, might give you reason to think again.
Branding is really just storytelling, hence why the best brands are those built around a compelling narrative. Mr Mike Amiri understands this better than most. The Los Angeles native’s namesake label AMIRI achieved early notoriety for its trademark shotgun-distressed sweaters, which he made by taking very expensive cashmere knitwear out to the desert in Joshua Tree National Park and – you guessed it – blasting it through with shotgun pellets. Those shotgun sweaters and tees weren’t just a great storytelling opportunity; they also neatly summed up what the brand is all about, namely a meticulous approach to deconstruction married with a West Coast rock ’n’ roll attitude. That’s still very much the vibe at AMIRI today, where grungy staples such as flannel shirts and Western jackets are reinvented in luxurious fabrics, skinny denim is surgically enhanced with bandana-print patches, and suede Chelsea boots set on chunky heels are embellished with Cuban-link chains.
If your impression of Parisian style is that it’s cool to the point of being aloof or even a bit unfriendly, then please allow us to introduce you to AMI. Helmed by Mr Alexandre Mattiussi, a designer who cut his teeth at some of the city’s leading houses, including Dior and Givenchy, AMI offers up a quirky and approachable take on the often austere and humourless world of Parisian high fashion. This coming season, expect floral intarsia knitwear, generously tailored coats and jackets in houndstooth check and other heritage patterns, plus lots of colours you might not expect to find in a menswear collection, such as pistachio, powder pink and tomato red. In short, AMI is a brand you should really make friends with.
The house that Mr Yves Saint Laurent founded in 1961 is alive and well with Mr Anthony Vaccarello at the helm. Now in his sixth season as SAINT LAURENT’s creative director, the Belgian-Italian designer is showing both a full fluency in the codes of the house – androgyny, bohemianism and that trademark Parisian glamour – and the confidence required to step out of its founder’s shadow. (Not to mention that of his predecessor, Mr Hedi Slimane, who is now installed in the top job at rival house Celine.) What to expect of autumn? The brand’s classic pieces are all present and correct – long-time fans of its leather jackets, Chelsea boots and satin-trimmed eveningwear won’t be left disappointed – but there’s plenty for adventurous dressers to sink their teeth into, too. Look out for silk chiffon and crepe-de-chine shirts with playful musical prints, Beetlejuice-style black and white stripes, and animal print in abundance.
FEAR OF GOD
Mr Jerry Lorenzo has always had an ambiguous relationship with the term “streetwear”. Maybe that’s because the term itself is ambiguous. “It’s street in the way it came about,” he said about Fear of God in an interview with US media company Milk back in 2014, suggesting that he sees streetwear as more of a business model than an aesthetic. And while it’s true that Fear of God doesn’t look much like a traditional luxury brand from the outside – it doesn’t do runway shows, follow seasons or advertise in traditional media – the clothes are just as desirable as anything you’ll find on the Champs-Élysées. This is especially true of Sixth Collection, Fear of God’s most recent drop, which dials up the luxury to 11 with items such as this belted nubuck-leather trucker jacket. This evolution isn’t the result of a shift in direction; as Mr Lorenzo told us when we met him in Paris this summer, “We’re just getting better at what we do.”
Off-White was designed to grab your attention. Take the double-ended arrows and chevron stripes of its early collections, which had the kind of stark visibility that you’d associate with road traffic signs rather than brand logos. Then there is Off-White’s founder Mr Virgil Abloh’s recent propensity for labelling everything with “QUOTATION MARKS”, a trick intended to question the context of everyday items and blur the lines between streetwear and high fashion. Did it work? Given that he’s now the creative director of Louis Vuitton, we’d have to say that yes, it probably did. Receiving the Off-White treatment this season is that old classic: the suit. Tailored for a boxy, oversized fit, the brand’s suiting offers an ironic slant on 1980s power dressing. Don’t miss the brand’s high-vis accessories, either. Not that you could.